Face masks, elbow bumps and disinfected balls - what Bundesliga return told us about how football will look going forward
PUBLISHED: 16:49 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:49 19 May 2020
It was football, but not as we know it. So what did the return of Bundesliga action tell us about what the game could look like if and when it returns here? Mark Heath takes a look...
The Bundesliga was the first major European league to return to action since the coronavirus lockdown last weekend.
It is being watched by other leagues around the world - including the Premier League and EFL - as they start to plan a return to action too.
Fortuna Dusseldorf - Ipswich Town’s ‘twin’ team – returned with a 0-0 draw against basement side Paderborn, despite hitting the woodwork four times.
Borussia Dortmund, the former side of Town boss Paul Lambert, were the big winners, trouncing rivals Schalke 4-0 in a derby clash.
They’re becoming a common sight in everyday life, but there was still something odd about seeing players and managers wearing masks at a football game.
Substitutes had to wear them while sitting on the bench - and respecting social distancing – but could take them off to warm-up.
Managers had the option to take them off so they could shout instructions to their charges during the game, but seeing the likes of Fortuna boss and cancer survivor Uwe Rosler with his mask on was a stark reminder of the times we are living in.
Players didn’t have to wear them while playing, but were handed them if they were substituted.
SOCIAL DISTANCING AND MORE
Teams, who had been tested for Covid-19 in the run-up to games, all stayed in the same hotels together for a week ahead of the matches.
Rather than arriving at grounds on one bus as per normal, teams used several buses so players could maintain social distancing while travelling.
Substitutes were spread out on benches and in some cases back into the front rows of stands.
All the footballs were disinfected both before and after the games.
Even with face masks and everything else, the strangest thing was probably still seeing world-class footballers competing in front of empty stands.
With no crowd noise pumped in, discussons between players and the touchline were audible, as was the sound of the ball being kicked.
Following their big win, Dortmund players still celebrated in front of their famed South Bank stand - creatures of habit! Could we still see the Luke Chambers fist bump if and when Town return?
One of the big fears about the return of English football is the possibility of fans congregating outside grounds during games, but there was little evidence of that in Germany as fans stayed at home to watch the action on TV.
Players still celebrated goals - and why not, given the games still counted - but there were some new looks for those outpourings of joy. There were no set rules to govern them, just guidelines reminding players that distancing must be respected.
The most common was the elbow bump, with the ‘social distance’ - players celebrating by standing two metres apart - also seen.
Hertha Berlin players let their excitement get the better of them though, hugging and celebrating as normal. They won’t be punished, but Bundesliga International chief executive Robert Klein said: “There are clear guidelines. We need everyone to respect them.
“In the hygiene concept, the guideline is to celebrate within social distancing rules. One can imagine at the height of a goal being scored that maybe, sometimes, the players get closer. The clubs are working actively with the players. They speak to them every day to remind them of what needs to be done to ensure we earn the right to a second match-day and a third and to finish the season.”
WHAT MANAGERS HAD TO SAY
The aforementioned Rosler said: “The day was a bit odd. I am an emotional man, I like to take a player in my arms, which I obviously couldn’t do today.”
Dortmund coach Lucien Favre, added: “There is no noise. You shoot at the goal, you make a great pass, you score, and nothing happens. It’s very, very weird.”
And Hertha Berlin boss Bruno Labbadia defended his team’s non-distanced celebrations, saying: “We’ve been tested so many times that we can allow it. If you can’t celebrate anymore, the whole thing breaks down. I’m just glad that the team had reason to cheer today.”